Does a Hot Day or Cold Day Affect Golf Club Distances?

Does the temperature of the air around you when you are playing golf affect how far you hit the golf ball? To ask it another way: Is golf club distance affected by how hot or how cold it is outside?

The answer is yes. But it's not a big effect, and many golfers probably don't need to think about it at all — unless the temperature difference compared to the weather you normally play in is very large.

But serious golfers, highly skilled golfers who are dialed in on their yardages, certainly do need to take temperature into account for club selection in many situations.

How Much Temperature Changes Your Golf Shot Distance

The best way for a serious golfer to figure out how much a hot or cold day changes his yardages is the serious way: chart all your rounds, and use a good stat tracker to help you tease out the trends. With enough data you'll be able to figure out the actual yardage differences from club to club that show up when temperatures rise or fall.

But, generally speaking, these percentages help illustrate the effect of temps on distance:

  • For shots 200 yards and above, there is, roughly, a 0.8% (eight-tenths of one percent) change in distance for a 10-degree change in temperature.
  • For shots 150-199 yards, there is, roughly, a 1-percent change in distance for each 10-degree change in temperature.
  • For shots 149 yards and below, there is, roughly, a 1.15-percent change in distance for each 10-degree change in temperature.
You'll notice that the distance change per 10-degree change in temperature actually increases, on a percentage basis, as you move through the bag to shorter clubs. But in terms of actual yards, the changes gets smaller because you are hitting the ball shorter distances: the change is, roughly, around two yards per 10 degrees for the longer clubs, down to about 1.3 to 1.5 yards per 10 degrees for the shortest clubs.

Examples: Doing the Math

Let's do some examples to see how we can put these percentages to real-life use. Imagine a golfer who lives in the South, who typically plays in temps around 90 degrees, and whose average drive is 220 yards. But this golfer has an early Fall golf trip planned to Northern Michigan, and expects it to be around 60 degrees when he plays up there. That's a 30 degree difference.

From the percentages listed above, we know that for 220-yard drives, going from hotter to colder temps, this golfer will lose about 0.8-percent of his distance for each 10-degree drop. The drop we're talking about is 30 degrees. So 0.8 multipled by three (a 30-degree drop equals three 10-degree increments) is 2.4. Our golfer is going to be hitting it 2.4-percent shorter in the colder location than his 220-yard drives in the hotter location: He'll be losing a little more than five yards off his drives.

Now let's imagine a golfer from a colder climate who hits his 7-iron about 150 yards on average. He typically plays in temps around 55 degrees, but next week there's a warm front and it will be 75 when he plays. What happens to his 150-yard shot? From the percentages listed above, we know that he will gain roughly 2-percent in yards (the 150-199 range gains roughly one-percent per 10-degree increase in temp). That's a three-yard increase, approximately.

Now you see why we stated above that many golfers don't need to think about this at all. Just know that you'll hit it a little bit shorter in cooler temps, a smidge longer in hotter temps. Most golfers out on the course simply aren't good enough, certainly not consistent enough with our yardages, to lose any sleep over this.

For highly skilled golfers, for any golfers good enough to be precise with yardages, it does matter, however, and it matters more the wider the temperature variance is.

And to repeat something else we said earlier: Rather than trying to do the math in your head, you can look into good stat-tracking programs, golf wearables, golf club stat-tracking sensors and similar items that can, over time, make these temp-distance variances clear.

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